You have opened a fair few places with Restaurant Associates, but this looks to be the biggest yet…
Yes it’s certainly the largest so far. Dipna Anand Kitchen & Bar has 150-covers and also incorporates a brewery which is run by Toast Ale. I have been working with Restaurant Associates and the wider Compass Group for over a decade. Every year the relationship gets stronger and stronger. My projects with them have included a restaurant at Somerset House (which closed earlier this year); various restaurants at major football, rugby and cricket stadiums; pop-ups at banks and other institutions; and a curry truck.
The restaurant has your name above the door. Does that mean you will cook there?
I will visit as often as I can. My family’s Brilliant Restaurant in Southall will continue to be the flagship. I live about five minutes away so I'm there working three or four times a week. One thing that really excites me about the Milton Keynes project (which is part of the Unity Place development) is that the town has a large Indian population. We have already opened a street food operation within the Unity Place Urban Food Market (Dipna Anand Indian Street Food). The bestseller is our fully loaded fish tikka naan.
Do you mostly serve people of Indian descent at your Southall restaurant?
Actually, it's a real mix. Brilliant Restaurant is quite well-known outside the Indian community (the restaurant was featured on the Channel 4 series Ramsay’s Best Restaurant and Anand is a regular on TV cooking shows) so we get a lot of non-Indian people coming to visit. About 40% of the people we serve are Indian. But the idea is to attract anyone and everyone. Business is good in Southall at the moment, the arrival of the Elizabeth Line has had a huge impact on trade for us and the area more generally. Things are so good, in fact, that I'm considering opening something a bit more casual close to the station.
How will the menu in Milton Keynes differ from your flagship?
The menu at Brilliant Restaurant is bigger because we have a much larger kitchen. But the approach will be similar. We try and balance traditional dishes with more innovative ones. My dad launched the restaurant in 1975 and many of the recipes are my grandfather’s, who ran an Indian restaurant in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. I'm about more than just curry. Our non-traditional dishes – including dynamite wings, chilli cheese potato skins, samosa chaat blast and our famous masala fries – fly out the door. The big difference between Milton Keynes and our place in Southall is that we will offer thalis. It’s unusual for a Punjabi restaurant to serve them, but they’re a great way to experience our cuisine.
And you will also be offering brunch…
Yes. Our menu includes a Desi English breakfast and a smashed avocado naan. There aren’t many restaurants in the area offering dishes like that. Indian breakfast dishes have been popularised by the likes of Dishoom, but cafés and restaurants in Southall have been serving them over 30 years.
Are people becoming more adventurous when it comes to Indian food?
Palates are changing. Traditional curry will never go away but people are now more daring with their choices. Grilled dishes are becoming more popular. One thing I have noticed recently is that people tend to be adventurous with their starters but play it safer when they get to the main course by reverting to something that is more familiar.